SoBRO Awarded U.S. Department of Agriculture Grant to Perform Feasibility Study on Bronx-based Restaurant Cooperative’s Use of Local Foods

Beautiful lettuce being grown at Arbor House's Sky Farm in Morrisania
Beautiful lettuce being grown at Arbor House’s Sky Farm in Morrisania

The South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBro) has just announced that it is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture, “to determine the economic feasibility of a Bronx-based cooperative leveraging its combined purchasing power to use locally-sourced fruits, vegetables, and other products in the restaurants’ menu items.”

The Bronx is severely underserved when it comes to healthy eating options whether its restaurants or supermarkets, one factor being the high cost of purchasing such goods as an individual business.  This model which SoBro established, called the United Business Cooperative (UBC) combines the collective purchasing powers of these small businesses into one block in the hopes that they can then in turn purchase locally farmed produce as well as other items in order to create healthier menus.

As per the press release issued by SoBro, the organization launched the UBC with 40 local based immigrant-owned mom and pop eateries earlier this year during the Spring.

  • Now that SoBro has received the grant, they have one year in which to accomplish the following:
  • Perform feasibility study
  • Develop healthier menus
  • Devise a business plan and community impact strategies for the most viable business scenarios
  • Create a Local Food Integration Resource Guide to influence food strategies among similar low-income restaurant communities throughout New York City and the nation

SoBro also went on to say, “Because so many restaurants that purchase local ingredients tend to serve an elite customer base and use well-known farmers, it will be a game-changer to show stakeholders in the rest of the country that communities with fewer resources and smaller farms can come together and make local food operations affordable to consumers and economically viable for restaurants and farms.”

Pooling resources together has been an unofficial business model of many immigrant communities when they arrive in America and collectively they are able to start up their own business but usually that type of collaboration ends there.  Using this strategy which combines the purchasing power of these 40 businesses can result in lower costs for purchasing such goods as food and produce wholesalers offer discounts to those who purchase large quantities in bulk — something which small mom and pop shops cannot afford to do on their own.

If successful this has the potential to be a game changer in the accessibility of healthy food options to the 1.4 million Bronxites (and growing) who call our borough home.

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